Is Spring the Best Time to Cruise Alaska?

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As with most things in life, people are inclined to chase the best time for whatever they choose to do. This includes cruising, as nobody wants to cruise through a hurricane in the Caribbean or a snowstorm in Alaska.

Plenty of people think a visit to Alaska is only possible in the peak of summer however we think the best time to cruise Alaska is hands down the Spring.

I know what you’re thinking, that ‘Spring’ in Alaska means June or July, I get it, Alaska is way up there and a quarter of the state rests above the Arctic Circle.

However, this is not the case, Alaska has four seasons and a proper show of each one. Did you know the Alaska cruising season actually starts in April?

Shocking, as this may seem, the months of April and May are the best time to cruise Alaska. Some may argue that it will still be too cold, but I don’t think you can visit Alaska without packing a jacket anyway, so you might as well take advantage of the most beautiful season in the state.

Still not convinced? Bear with me, by the time you finish reading this you’ll be perusing the Alaska Spring itineraries over at UnCruise Adventures and putting in a vacation notice at work. I promise.

Best Time to Cruise Alaska

best time to cruise Alaska UnCruise

More Dry Days

Statistically speaking, Juneau averages 50 inches of rain per year but other areas of Southeast Alaska average 275 inches. It’s an incredibly wet region in Alaska but the least of that rain happens during the month of May.

We took our first ever visit to Alaska in early May and had the most unbelievable weather with 5 days of sunshine in Juneau before we boarded the Safari Endeavor for a 7-day cruise around the Inside Passage with UnCruise. In 12 days, it only rained twice.

People also assume that travel to Alaska outside of the summer months would be too cold. We’ve even had people assume that the snow never melts in Alaska, which is crazy.

Alaska actually experiences a very lovely spring, summer, and fall. It’s not uncommon for spring days in the Inside Passage to stay in the ’60s.

This also means fewer bugs. Which is a real winner for me? I’ve heard horror stories of people battling bugs in Alaska during the summer.

Mosquitos the size of cars feasting on every exposed piece of skin. No thanks. I am happy to report we spent a month in Alaska, starting May 10, and never once used a spray of repellent.

Unsure what to pack? The Ultimate Alaska Packing List

Lina Stock in Juneau

Less Crowded Ports

One of the beauties of taking an UnCruise is that you don’t spend much if any, time at popular ports during your cruise.

However, you will start and end in Juneau, Ketchikan or Sitka. During the peak months, these ports see daily visits from all the major cruise lines that frequent the Inside Passage.

The amount of people traveling during this time is staggering and you’ll find it incredibly hard to get a feel for the true Alaska when in port.

This is a prime reason why the best time to cruise Alaska in the spring. Fewer people means you’ll have a chance at a more authentic experience.

During the 5 days, we spent in Juneau before our cruise, we couldn’t help but take notice when one of the big cruise liners rocked up to the dock.

Hundreds of people flooded the port that day, creating long lines for the tram, packed restaurants, and extremely crowded shops.

This was only one ship, cruising during ‘off-peak’ time. It’s not uncommon for Juneau to have up to 6 big ships in port at the same time from June through August.

I can’t even imagine what that is like, nor do I want to experience it. Especially after I’ve had the luxury of being there without the crowds.

Nature coming alive - Spring travel to Alaska

Nature is Coming to Life

Spring in Alaska is essentially an awakening, a rebirth of nature after the harsh winter conditions have left. The grass is starting to take on vibrant shades of green, the trees are growing in new leaves, flowers are starting to peak up from the ground and the last of the snow has melted from the ground.

Spring affords you to see Alaska at its brightest and freshest out of all the seasons. I will never forget the day we landed in Juneau, it was May 10.

We had gotten up at 3 am that morning and then spent more than 12 hours traveling before our plane touched down in Alaska. When we emerged from the airplane we were overcome with the freshness of the area.

We grabbed a quick lunch, strapped on our hiking boots and set off to stretch our legs by climbing up Mount Roberts.

Everywhere we looked were signs of rebirth with the fresh growth of moss and plants sprouting up between fallen trees as we made our way along the trail. Even better, the sun was out and the temperature easily 65 degrees.

Fantastic wildlife viewing on a spring cruise in Alaska

Fantastic Wildlife Viewing

Just as the grass and trees are coming to life, so is the abundance of classic Alaskan wildlife. Bears are venturing away from their dens and heading to the shorelines to scavenge the inner tidal zone. This means you’re going to see more bears up close.

It is no joke when I tell you that we saw a bear on shore every morning of our cruise. We’d wake up for breakfast and enter the dining room only to be approached by an excited staff member about spotting a bear.

Whales are starting their migration north from Hawaii and starting to arrive into the cool waters of the Inside Passage.

It’s not every day you get to cruise around Glacier Bay and mingle with a pod of newly arrived Orcas with their calves. This actually happened to us, it was unreal.

I can’t tell you the number of hours we spent on deck, in dining rooms, in the lounge and in our cabins viewing wildlife from the Safari Endeavor during our cruise.

I’m pretty sure that when you start to get critical about how far away an animal is from the boat, that you’ve reached the point of true wildlife viewing success.

Best time to cruise Glacier Bay in Alaska

Snow-capped Mountains

If nothing else can convince you that the best time to cruise Alaska is the spring, then let it be that despite the absence of snow on the ground, every mountain in eyes view will still have snow-caps. Hands down, this is the best thing about spring in Alaska.

There is just something special, and so Alaska, about seeing open blue water, bright green forests and snow-capped mountains all at the same time. This is the reason we will always plan our visits to Alaska in the spring.

I can vividly remember hanging out on the aft deck one evening for sunset. It was an evening so calm that the water looked like a mirror, the only movement, a ripple from the ship.

The sunset with pizzaz, lighting up the sky with bright oranges and reds before fading to pastels against a backdrop of massive, snow-capped mountains. All the while, a group of Bald Eagles swooping and fishing next to our boat.

This kind of stuff is magic and you surely can’t get the best available contrast without the snow.

Alaska Cruise in the Spring

Save on Airfare and Cruise Costs

Off-peak means great deals when it comes to travel and Alaska is no exception to this rule. Not only is spring the best time to cruise Alaska, but you’ll be treated to discounted airfare with fewer connections and cost savings on your cruise bookings.

You also have a better chance at cabin upgrades during off-peak cruising times too.

We can’t vouch for any of the other cruise companies that operate cruises in Alaska but stand proudly by UnCruise Adventures as the best way to cruise the Inside Passage.

They agree with us that spring is the best time to cruise Alaska. Read more about UnCruise: 11 Reasons to Take an Alaska Inside Passage Cruise with UnCruise

best time to cruise Alaska

The Best Time to Cruise Alaska is Spring

While I was once a skeptic, I am now a big believer in spring being the best time to cruise Alaska. I mean, Alaska is going to blow your mind no matter when you choose to visit, it’s that good, but spring brings an element to the experience you just can’t get any other time of the year.

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Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by UnCruise Adventures as past of their #AlaskaAwakening campaign. All opinions about how awesome Alaska is to visit in the spring are 100% mine. 

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About Lina Stock

Lina is an award-winning photographer and writer that has been exploring the world since 2001. She has traveled to 100 countries on all 7 continents. Member: SATW, NATJA, ATTA, ITWA

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